Chickens and puppies don’t mix

Well, I’ve officially cried over my first … and fifth … lost chicken. We started with ten sweet red hens and half of them have been killed. Coyotes? Hawks? Bear?

No, dogs. Our puppy Molly has eaten three of them and another dog killed two. Cute and careless little boys have gone in to check for eggs and forgotten that dogs will follow them.

Chickens aren’t really pet-like birds, but I’ve gotten attached to these ones because they’re quick to relax around me and gather round clucking and scratching happily. And then I feel just like Cinderella. So I get really sad every time this happens. And, when it’s been my puppy, I get really mad. Yesterday I told Kerry we needed to find a new home for Molly. Somewhere far from any kind of bird.

Pretty sure I said that the last time we had puppy drama too. It usually wears off after a day or so and I’m glad to have her again, but so far Molly and I have had a tumultuous relationship. Mingo just seems to understand that he shouldn’t cause trouble.

Kerry is much more faithful to the pups than I am, and I’m sure he’s right that someday “we’ll be thankful we got both of them.” That might be the day they heroically give up their lives to save my children from an unnaturally large and crazed grizzly bear. Then I’ll weep at their graves and tell the air how sweet and good they were.

Or, that day might come when they’re finally well-trained. Both of them are quite smart (we wouldn’t have known how to look for a smart puppy, so I’m glad we ended up with them), and also quite different. Mingo is very calm and a little quicker to learn. Molly is more of a spitfire. Interestingly, I think Mingo has started training Molly. Today when I told her to come and she tried to run away instead, Mingo grabbed her by the scruff of the neck and gave a little growl.

I’m not ready to do the whole training thing on our own and just hope it turns out ok (especially since our sweet neighbor has free-range chickens and peacocks and I have nightmares about our dogs killing one of them), so I left a message for a dog trainer today to get some advice on how to help our pups become stellar livestock guardians. Maybe we’ll send Molly to boarding school…?

Back to chickens. It is a wonderful mercy that their brains are so small (literally). Though dogs have randomly charged in and terrorized and killed them several times, the survivors don’t seem to remember it. I’ve been taking the dogs into the coop on a leash as much as possible so I can reinforce the “leave it!” (don’t even look at those birds) command, and it only takes the chickens a couple of minutes to start ignoring the dog.

Molly Mingo

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7 Comments

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7 responses to “Chickens and puppies don’t mix

  1. Karen

    What adorable little faces…they seem to be saying, “who me? kill a chicken? No, not me.” Oh my, I had no idea dogs would bother chickens….goes to show you what I don’t know….Marsha, I am sure you will train them properly and they will turn out to be great protectors of not only children, but the feathered occupants of Mingo Mtn.

  2. It sounds like you are settling into country life quite well actually. At least the dog is killing the chickens and not you. Your dogs are quite cute, and very big. I don’t know. I would probably continue telling yourself they are for your children’s safety, and forget the chicken lovers part, except unless you mean KFC. I love reading your post and looking at all your pictures of the family enjoying Mingo Mountain. The kids are so adorable and you and Kerry seem to be enjoying your wilderness lives. If worse comes to worse you aren’t far from Job Corp and you can ship those boys out who cut dolls hair off. Or…you can be thankful they didn’t take the scissors to their little sister like some children i know.

  3. tami

    I am so sorry this happened again. And am sorry our dog killed the first two sweet red hens. So sad:(

  4. Rusty

    Maybe you can smear something really nasty tasting on the chickens.

  5. Hi Marsha:
    We maintain almost 400 hens in our certified organic pastured laying flock. At our farm http://www.cleanfoodfarm.com we don’t have a dog for a reason. We also maintain 7,000 volts (ultra low impedence) at our electro netting and perimeter fence for the same reason. The electric fencing/netting also keeps out two neighboring coyote packs. It all comes down to what your goals are for your place. Ours is a small business (sustainable, organic, serene etc) but still a business. . Are you located in Stevens County now?

  6. Hi Larry! I’ll check out your website! That sounds really interesting. And yes, we’re in Stevens County now.

    Dad, that might work! The dog trainer mentioned a shock collar as a last resort also. The idea would be to make the dog think the chickens are electrified.

  7. Lisa

    I have a video of our Maggi at 6weeks old being attacked by our rooster. She was just checking out the hens and got too close. She screamed and acted like she was dying. She never went that close to the hens again. 🙂 I have heard that once a dog tastes a chicken they will not leave them alone. 😦 We had our hens a huge pen with a top (totally enclosed) so the hawks and creatures couldn’t get them and we would close them in their house at night.

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